Meet Mark

Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

Tell Me More
Stay Connected
April 21 2009

Did Humans Evolve to Be Long-Distance Runners?

By Mark Sisson
150 Comments

Thanks to the several readers who have pointed out this recent article in SEED Magazine which once again dredges up the tired argument that humans evolved to be long-distance runners. Most of you know by now that I totally disagree with that theory. I say humans evolved to be excellent slow movers (walk, jog, migrate, forage, crawl, scramble, etc) burning mostly fat. We also developed into pretty decent short sprinters, but we did NOT evolve to run long distances. Sure, early humans were all-around fit enough and capable of the occasional long easy jaunt after an animal, but to think that natural selection redesigned our simian shapes to run the Boston Marathon is, in my opinion, ludicrous.

We’ve hashed this out a bunch in the past when a Men’s Health magazine article a few years ago quoted Dr. Daniel Lieberman, a leading proponent of the “ER” (endurance running) hypothesis as suggesting that early humans would run an animal to death by chasing it for for 5 or 10 miles until it died of heat stroke. They call it persistence hunting. I find the idea – that this behavior led to some specialized human evolution as distance runners – to be preposterous on several levels. First, much of the fossil record suggests early humans were scavengers and lived pretty well off road kill until they started employing weapons a few hundred thousand years ago. No real need to run long distances when you can walk, hide, climb, sprint and crawl to scavenge. Secondly, it’s one thing to track and stalk an animal (using your superior intelligence) with walking, occasional jogging and a few sprints here and there. That’s a primarily fat-burning pursuit and it’s probably how our ancestors actually hunted. But once you have to shift into glucose/glycogen mode to run aggressively for long distances, it’s a whole different ballgame and you encounter a big problem. Run out of glycogen chasing a beast too long in the heat and you become exhausted yourself. If you are lucky enough to bag the beast, at least you get to eat now (albeit mostly protein and fats which won’t completely restore your glycogen reserves). But fail in your mission and your sorry, fatigued, glycogen-depleted butt is now vulnerable to becoming some other beast’s dinner. ER makes no sense to me from an evolutionary perspective.

So now comes Lieberman again in this latest study in The Journal of Experimental Biology (abstract) that compared the mechanical forces in the feet and the metabolic costs of generating these forces to arrive at the following conclusion: “The increased mechanical cost associated with long toes in running suggests that modern human forefoot proportions might have been selected for in the context of the evolution of endurance running.” He basically argues that humans evolved to have shorter toes than our simian relatives because longer-toed relatives were selected out. That same theory would therefore imply that longer-toed ancestors died off at a greater rate as a result of needing an average of a tiny bit more fuel to run after prey for long distances? Hmmm. I’m not buying it and I’m surprised that the JEB bought it. Since the study concluded that there is no difference in cost between long toes and short toes when walking, I could even use that data to shore up my theory that we evolved to be efficient walkers who could sprint when required and who were fit enough to run after the occasional mastodon if it made sense. And then there’s this: If men did most of the hunting, how is it that women are better suited to ultra running than men (compared to shorter running events) and a modern female like Ann Trason can beat most men today straight up in every ultra running event she enters? (Granted, she could be an outlier.)

Of course, the ER proponents typically cite the Tarahumara as current examples of the human genetic propensity to run long distances. This tribe of indigenous Mexican people are known for their prowess in running great distances (often 50-80 miles in a day) and for their participation in occasional persistence hunting, where they literally chase down deer until it is so exhausted they can walk up to it and kill it. But other scientists suggest that the Tarahumara’s endurance is based more on a cultural adaptation (no cars, no phones, no mail service), training, diet and conditioning than it is on heredity. Some 80% of their diet is complex carbs from grains and beans. That goes back to my primary argument as to why we did NOT evolve to be distance runners. Until we had a ready source of reliable high-carb fuel, made available through agriculture, any sort of regular distance running (chronic cardio) was a natural selection killer. Eating grains every day at every meal certainly replenishes the glycogen stores, so you can go out and do it again tomorrow. But why?

Most anthropologists would agree we didn’t evolve to swim. We learned how to make our way through water without drowning and we do it pretty effectively for a land mammal. That doesn’t make it natural or adaptive. Similarly, I say we learned to run marathons when we had the luxury of unlimited carbohydrates. That doesn’t make it adaptive or natural.

One final point I’ll address is the claim that the large size of the human gluteus maximus is further evidence in favor of the ER theory. I would argue that the move to bipedalism makes the default resting position the squat (as I touched on in this video) and that the range of motion and strength required for this position necessitates strong and well-developed gluteus maximus and hamstring muscles. Look no further than your local gym to see how people train these muscles – squats, lunges, deadlifts etc.

Further Reading:

Bloggers and Strength Coaches Name Their 3 Favorite Exercises

Washboard Abs on a High-Fat Diet, No Ab Workouts and No Cardio?

Vibram FiveFingers

TAGS:  Grok

If you'd like to add an avatar to all of your comments click here!

150 thoughts on “Did Humans Evolve to Be Long-Distance Runners?”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Not that this is scientific evidence… BUT, every long distance runner/endurance athlete I know, which is quite a few, gets sick ALL THE TIME. They constantly have sinus infections, respiratory infections, colds/flus, you name it. I can’t imagine that would increase the survival rate.

    1. No males on my distance team (including myself) are frequently sick. 8 hours of sleep and good meals to go along with hard training = good health.

    2. Agreed! My ex did over 30 marathons over his lifetime and i was always concerned how often he would get sick… I seldom get sick myself and don’t run nearly as much- not my preferred form of exercise. Mmm, maybe a coincidence?

      1. As an elite marathon kayaker training for major events, I often got sick, which resulted in the loss of valuable training time. I think the psychological aspect of knowing that your body is constantly on the verge of illness adds to the likelihood as well. Bit of a vicious circle really. It was generally upper respiratory infections, colds and sinus problems. Since I’ve stopped training in that way and have adopted a more primal way of training I am very rarely sick. Anecdotal evidence but pretty clear in my mind.

    3. Limited personal experience is a poor substitute for scientific data. I run a lot. My wife doesn’t. She gets sick much more often than I do. I’m not about to say that proves endurance athletes get sick less.

      Re: “Tarahumara’s endurance is based more on a cultural adaptation (no cars, no phones, no mail service), training, diet and conditioning than it is on heredity.”

      Right… so before we all had cars, phones, hunting rifles, etc., wouldn’t that make all humans culturally adapted?

      1. This is what I was thinking too but then I read about the fact that the Tarahumaras diet is in fact about 80% corn and beans. That is a shit load of carbs which helps then run long distances.

        I just finished reading Born to Run which motivated me to go out and run more. I won’t be running in ultras but I now see myself completing a marathon at least once in my lifetime.

        I LOVE 5K’s however 🙂

      2. I agree Matt. I think this article is bogus. It’s like people forget that before we created all of these electronic gadgets that we actually had to walk or run to get our food instead of sit at our desks all day which has caused us to become “scared” of any exercise over 30 minutes. It’s not normal. We weren’t designed to sit in chairs for 8-9 hours a day, walk for 30 minutes only and then sit back down in front of a TV all night. I have run over 20 marathons in a 2 and 1/2 year period and am a physician at the hospital. Haven’t been sick once over that period of time.

    4. I don’t:) I’m a competitive distance runner….on the primal blue print diet….I’ve found a way to make it work for me:) Lots of miles and healthy body!! (I run around 120+ km a week) Thanks for all the great nutrition info it’s helped my performance tremendously ….but I believe some of us are certainly made to run…..

      1. Mell,

        What do you use for nutrition during your long runs? Gu has been my staple for running marathons. Pasta loading has been another. These things have kept me from trying the Paleo diet. I’m one that wants to bench press 245 lbs and run a marathon in under 4 hours. Seemed like a good balance to me at the age of 41.

        1. Paul,
          I was paleo first, distance runner later. You don’t need pasta to carb-load. You’re body is most likely to utilize carbs for glycogen after you exercise, so do any kind of exercise and then eat tons of paleo friendly or paleo acceptable carbs – sweet potato, buckwheat, etc – right afterwards.

          On the runs I have been using gu’s just because I haven’t had the time to experiment, but I’ve heard LOTS of ideas from runners for alternative fuel – bananas, nuts, my favorite idea was dates stuffed with salt & coconut oil.

  2. If I told how many times I have gone down this – logical- road with some people and gotten verbally beaten up for it you’d laugh, or you’d probably know the reaction more than I would. I gave up trying, as I continue to watch many still doing it with knee braces, back aches, joint and foot issues and so on – so I just do my thing, sprint like a ferret in heat for 30 minutes and go home.

  3. It’s hard to go “toe-to-toe” with the running industry given it is so entrenched in our modern culture — what (slightly overweight) average American doesn’t assume that marathoners are the pinnacle of health? And you have an industry built up around the products used by runners — even those that seem to do more harm than good.

    Which brings me to an article in the Daily Mail the other day that (like the NY Mag article “You Walk Wrong”) tackles the problems of modern sneakers vs. our foot’s biological engineering. It’s a fairly exhaustive read, so I summarized some of the key points in a brief write-up over at a new site I’ve founded called birthdayshoes.com (linked via my signature here). It’s basically a fan site for FiveFingers, and a sort of backdoor (a sort of Trojan horse idea) into applying the evolutionary model to diet, exercise and modern life.

  4. First of all I love your articles Mark, very well written.

    On this topic though I need to understand something.

    I always thought a ketogenic diet or one close to it would be the ultimate/ideal long-distance runners diet. On ridiculous long @$$ treks like these wouldn’t you be burning primarily FAT(and possibly some muscle protein depending upon a thousand other variables) after say 20 min (or possibly close to an hour depending upon your speed) even if you were eating a carb-based diet?

    This is assuming of course you aren’t running with a 12-pack of Gatorade or w/e long-distance runners consume nowadays.

    To my knowledge Mark, SPRINTING and WEIGHT LIFTING are two primarily glycogen dependent exercises – very ANAEROBIC. Nearly all of the low carb advocates I’ve read up on advocate either carbs around training or doing a carb load every week or every fourth day.

    See Bodyopus by Dan Duchaine/ many books by Lyle McDonald (esp. UD2), Tom Venuto, Rob Faigin etc.

    Even on your podcast with Jimmy Moore you even said YOURSELF, you eat maybe 150ish grams daily which is not Keto (albeit from low carb sources).

    For anyone who has been hunting or watches any type of hunter you know this – IF you are running around like a chicken with your head cut off, you aren’t going to catch squat! I have yet to met or hear of a human who could outrun a deer or rabbit. And a bear or a snake, well, if you want to go after a bear or a snake with your bare hands (no pun intended) be my guest.

    Heck go look at the guys that use spears to catch fish (ie salmon/trout/tuna) or even fisherman. No hours of cardio there HAH!

    I have read though that old peoples used to drive wolly mammonths up off clifts – they wanted their hunt to end ASAP!

    Even pick out peoples who lived in tropical areas – you don’t usually need to run miles to find a orange or banana. Just need to know how to climb a tree, or shake it hard enough. 😉

    Let me know what ya think Mark!

    Oh btw do you still work with P90X? I never saw you with Tony in the Plus. 🙁

  5. From the outset, I’ll state that I am a trail ultramarathon runner.

    That we evolved to “to run the Boston Marathon is, in my opinion, ludicrous.” I agree. A road 5k to marathon is typically a high-intensity exercise that quickly depletes glycogen stores, not to mention the runner being near a high anaerobic threshold and often pounding their legs in a hard, artificial surface. Contrast to the run I did on Sunday a distance of 50 miles with 26,000 feet combined gain/loss, intense heat and all of it on trails. I was walking for perhaps 50% of the time, over rocks, roots, up and down the hills and conserving my energy since I knew I had a long day ahead of me. Despite the long distance, I never really felt fatigued throughout the day and could have quite happily kept running/jogging/walking in to the night after having “run” for 13.5 hours in daylight.

    “We also developed into pretty decent short sprinters, but we did NOT evolve to run long distances” I disagee slightly. As straight-out sprinters we are pretty useless in the animal kingdom. However, at the end of a long sustained period of moving, (a combination of a walk/jog/run) I think we can put in a VERY decent sprint compared to most of our likely prey species (likely large ungulates). The timing of the sprint is important.

    In short, I agree we evolved to MOVE long distances – efficiently. I believe some of this movement did involve running – but this is NOTHING like you’d see at a marathon or shorter race. Most of this movement was more like you’d find at a trail ultra. run. Slowly, steadily moving forward, running, jogging and walking.

    FWIW, nutritionally, I have run the marathon-distance on trails several times on nothing but water. Just give me some eggs and nuts/seeds in the morning plus a couple of bananas and I am good to go. I have friends who can easily run the same distance during a intermittent fasting period. We are a nightmare scenario for marketers of sugared sports drinks and gels.

    Cheers, Paul Charteris

    P.S. Joe, I have not been sick in the last three years. Not even a sniffle.

    1. Running long distances like that over long periods of time really can kill you. Not only do you burn fat and carbs, but you also exhaust your immune system. When this happens, you are at higher risk of cancers and many other diseases. Your body will think it’s in a survival situation and mask any signs of any illness until it’s too late. Excersize should only be done in moderation; much like over-eating, eating junk food and drinking alcohol.

    2. you are so cool and eloquent.

      I feel that also, in this article the author forgets the scientific arrow that points to the question of, “But seriously, how did we humans take over this place?”

      Was it by walking long distances and conserving resources? But how did we protect ourselves? I know typically animals deal in a language of dominance, I wonder what we used to show ours..

  6. Heartily agree with you Mark.
    There are numerous reasons and good evidence as to why we were and are ambushers, stealthy stalkers and tool users.
    First and foremost among these is the development of our brains, it was our ability to plan, forsee events and construct strategies for possible outcomes which allowed us to become the pre eminent hunter. It is far easier, more energy efficient and less physically risky to stalk and or ambush prey than it is to run it down, the development of tool use further heighted this process to the point where we developed ranged weapons, allowing us to extend our reach considerably, no marathons required. The San bushmen, the Hadza etc would think it insane were we to suggest that they ran down their game untill it dropped from exhaustion.

    We are a compromise and perhaps one of natures finest, we dont run the fastest, we dont run the furthest, rather instead we use our brains and our ability to be ok at both to succesfully hunt down our game. Unfortunately we became so good at this that we developed farming replacing the need to hunt altogether and we all know where that has led us!

    Chris

    ps thanks for the sheer volume of great info and links you have here

    as an aside, it was almost certainly our ability to catch/scavenge energy rich meat and fat that allowed our brains to develop beyond those of our primate cousins in the first place

    1. “First and foremost among these is the development of our brains”

      One of the ideas Lieberman states is that the steady meat supply running enabled provided the protein necessary to allow for the sudden development of the human brain. It is well-documented that the human brain had a dramatic size increase. There’s just never been a good explanation for why that development happened.

  7. I agree with Paul. Running at anaerobic threshold may be a silly thing to do for long periods of time, since it will leave you exhausted (for a short while at least) and vulnerable to predators or enemies, but jogging/aerobic work (i.e., mostly fat burning as opposed to lactate contributed by fast twitch muscle with subsequent glycogen depletion) is much more sustainable. I do agree with you that the current racing and training emphasis is on carb replacement (~700g/day) and that seems really excessive and unnecessary to me, and would not have been possible before agriculture. I wish someone would do studies on low carb adapted athletes so we could see what biochemical pathways kick in under those conditions that might obviate the need for so much carb replacement. My husband runs ultras using only coconut milk and whey protein and does great. Is that because his liver gluconeogenesis is upregulated, or because he never goes appreciably anaerobic?

    On the other hand, in my earlier marathoning experiences, I never used anything during the events other than water or worried about carbing up or sports drinks. I wasn’t fast like you, but I could do 3:30’s just fine.

    Regarding illnesses, that has not been an issue either since going paleo/low carb and supplementing with vitamin D. I thought for sure I’d catch the flu or colds when my boys came home from college sick, but nothing, despite all this running.

    I think if people eat mostly paleo and don’t train excessively hard, their health will be great. If they want to see how long and fast they can run occasionally, let them enjoy it!

    1. One thing I had thought about is that there is a natural inefficiency when you swap from a walking gait to a running gait. I once read a study where a group of guys walked a mile in about 19 minutes and burned roughly 50 calories. They then jogged the mile in about 9 or 10 minutes and burned 100 calories covering the same distance. In a primitive world where food was scarce, it seems like jogging just wouldn’t be a smart tactic given it requires double the energy for the same mileage.

  8. Recent article:

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/moslive/article-1170253/The-painful-truth-trainers-Are-expensive-running-shoes-waste-money.html

    “Thrust enhancers, roll bars, microchips…the $20 billion running – shoe industry wants us to believe that the latest technologies will cushion every stride. Yet in this extract from his controversial new book, Christopher McDougall claims that injury rates for runners are actually on the rise, that everything we’ve been told about running shoes is wrong – and that it might even be better to go barefoot…”

    Gasp! Who knew? 😉

  9. Chris I know what you mean about the effects of agriculture, but its advent is not “unfortunate” by any reasonable standard. Agriculture is what allows people to work on things other than find their next meal, and the freedom to do those things is what enables us all to provide all these services to each other. Agriculture is also critical to people’s ability to eat like hunter gatherers without having to live like them. No fair calling the development of farming “unfortunate”.

    1. Actually, if you look at the Masai or any of the other hunter/gatherer societies(both current or historically) they put in a lot LESS work than any agricultural society. I believe the average time spent working was 15 hours per week… Because of the excess leisure, they had very well developped social systems and systems of play/recreation.

  10. Dr. Daniel Lieberman’s position is not so anti-primal as it may appear at first look. If you read his articles and others on the topic you will see that the type of running he envisions is relatively low intensity and totally unlike what one does during a marathon race. A fit, fat adapted individual running at these lower intensities would not consume large amounts of glycogen and would be similar in metabolic effect to a fast walk for most of us.

  11. Kevin,
    I agree completely, my remark was meant as a tounge in cheek quip. I enjoy immensly the life that agriculture and the domestication of animals has afforded me, however that same process has afforded us the ability to do some realy stupid stuff as a species

  12. See, this is one good thing about being a hockey player: no need to argue whether the sport is natural or unnatural, the answer is obvious to everybody. 😉

    Between scavenging and living at the beach (i.e., strategies heavy on the gathering), I wonder if we can even assume that hunting was a large enough pressure long enough to make a difference to our evolution. If you think about it, it’s a bit weird that we’re flexible enough that almost any individual can be a fairly anaerobic-glycolysis-loving sprinter/power athlete (like us hockey players) or a fairly fat-adapted distance athlete, as he or she chooses.

  13. Our gluteous muscles aren’t large—just flabby (not yours, Mark!). The natural way to train the gluteous muscles is to simply squat more—not go to a gym and load up the spine. Also, we should activate them when walking (see Esther Gokhale) as in the third world. And the Erwan le Corre video shows a natural walking squat when passing under obstructions.
    When walking, simply begin contracting the gluteous muscles when the forward foot is planted in front of the pelvis. Also, add calf muscle contractions for added pushoff with a little psoas muscle action to advance the leg, and you have a natural workout.

  14. I think the difference lies in how you define “running long distances.” If you define running over long distances as 30-miles at a 4-minute/mile pace, then I would agree. Humans can’t out-sprint large prey. We would burn through our glycogen stores in a matter of moments.

    But from a hunters perspective, the one thing humans do very efficiently is endurance. Think 10-15 minute mile pace, which is easily attainable over long distances with a combination of walking and jogging. Humans can manage that pace all day long. Couple prehistoric trackers with weapons such as an atladl or bow, and they would have been very capable of separating weaker prey from a herd and pushing it to exhaustion.

  15. I am an endurance athlete (bike marathons) and I know many other endurance athletes. Neither myself or my comrades in mileage are ever sick and are rather very healthy.

    I think it is irrelevant whether or not humans have evolved for endurance. We do it.

    If we switch the time frame to Groks period, I am sure some of his club swinginging buddies where questioning if they had evolved to walk and not just stay in the water swimming or slivering on the ground.

    As with many, some people are genetically, physiologically and bio-mechanically for endurance sports. My body and physiology is well suited for biking. Find the sport which is best for your body, and you´ll be fine.

  16. I think the human organism is very highly adaptable.
    Some people are natural born runners, some are sprinters/jumpers, some are large and stocky and seem to be built for moving large amounts of weight.
    If you look at modern day hunter/gathers, most seem to stalk their pray and shoot at it with a poisoned arrows from fairly long distances, however their is the exception in the Kalahari Bushmen, whose traditional hunting method is persistence hunting.
    However their bows are unable to travel long distances(cultural adaption, as you said).

    They also walk very long distances(to us sedentary folk) every day, due to their nomadic lifestyle.
    In fact they walk so much it leads to infanticide, because when a Bushmen women gives birth to twins, she suffocates one to avoid the extra burden.

    In the sprinting department, humans are very weak.
    If you look at other bipedal animals like for instance the ostrich, which has been recorded at 45 mph for short bursts.
    Compared to this, the humans fail miserably.
    Look at Usain Bolt’s max speed during the 100m world record 27.3 mph.(And he is blessed with good genetics, and strict training)

  17. The only problem I have with this is that I think what tends to happen is kind of what the HIT people did: say since this protocol is good/right we should do no other training. Do I think the argument that overdistance type training is unhealthy is correct? Yes, but I don’t think that means we can never go out and run more than a sprint or we can’t go mountain biking, etc. I think that is sometimes the message that is getting sent by these arguments.

  18. I’d have to agree with you on this!

    Take a look at the children at the playground – they can sprint easily but to get them to do an ER needs “training” – something which isn’t the most “natural” of actions I’d feel. Especially after how you mentioned the living conditions of ancient man.

  19. Wow. Quite a rebuttal, Mark. Your logic is based in your knowledge of physiology, ancestral diet, cultural adaptation and, empirically, on your own unique experience as former endurance athlete.

  20. We’re making assumptions based on theories, speculations and conjecture. I have no idea if long distance running is better than sprints or vice versa, I’ve seen studies that suggest either way, but I do know that doing either is much better than sitting on the couch.

    For me, I enjoy 40 minutes of jogging more than 40 minutes of sprints, so that’s what I do. If intervals and sprints work for you, by all means, enjoy. 🙂

    Gal

  21. Also, there is research demonstrating that chronic endurance training lowers testosterone temporarily- as does resistance training-leading one to the conlusion that working out everyday may not be a pathway to optimum health.

  22. Mark,

    You mentioned that humans didn’t evolve to swim and swimming is not natural or adaptive. Do you think swimming is a good exercise?

  23. Gal

    1) 40min jogging DOES NOT = 40min sprints

    2) Who SPRINTS for 40 minutes?

  24. With regard to study: Education, technology, and the institutionalism of their speculative findings are lesser substitutes for cultivating one’s self, by and for one’s self, out of sheer curiosity, need, and/or desire.

    Shed yourselves of agenda, all. Do. Be. Naked. Truth. Explore. Care. Reach. Grow.

  25. Lieberman is not describing a marathon running gait in his article. A jog or slow run is all that is required, and would be quite glycogen sparing. It is possible for people to train their ability to oxidize fat better and better, and the likelihood of a group of humans that only ate fats and proteins, and dealt with physical activity all day were quite adept at burning fat more efficiently to power them.

    Also, the idea of humans chasing down faster animals over long distances is not absurd, it is something the aboriginals still practice today. It is quite effective. For an animal to pick up it’s speed to significant outpace a human, it usually must transition to a different gait. Most animals that pant to expel heat can only pant in a walk or a trot, and don’t expel heat well at high speeds. Humans are very adept at expelling heat through their hairless bodies and numerous sweat glands, and can deal with overheating surprisingly well. I certainly am not totally dismissive of the idea, but as I stated, there are still examples of primitive tribes that practice persistent hunting. You don’t need to chase something 26, or even 13 miles to exhaust it. Fossil records don’t support much behind the idea of only scavenging either, as that is very difficult to ascertain from a fossil.

    I am a weightlifter, not a runner, so I am not trying to justify some kind of inherited reason for running. Some of it makes sense though.

    1. I totally agree with this. The question of are we persistent joggers-hunters or exclusively printers is still unknown

  26. Also, you do not need to eat carbohydrates to replenish glycogen stores. In the absence of carbohydrates, the human body can, and does quite often, make glucose from carbohydrates through a process called gluconeogenesis, and this glucose will be used to replenish muscular and liver glycogen, as well as power most brain tissues, as many brain areas run much better off of glucose than the ketone bodies that are releases when fat is metabolized. Besides, at a slow run pace, glycogen is largely going to be spared, as it’s fast energy turnover won’t be needed for the energy requirements of the run. Again, we are not talking about competitive marathoning here.

    And some would argue we did evolve to swim. The purposed aquatic ape theory is derived on much shakier ground however, and does not withstand scrutiny very well.

  27. Sorry for the third post, but I meant to say the body makes glucose from protein, not carbohydrates. Of course the body can make glucose from carbs. Duh.

  28. @David,
    I realize they’re not the same. While I do respect Mark’s opinions a great deal and frequently link to his articles from my own blog, that doesn’t necessarily mean I have to agree with everything he says. So, since I have not yet seen very convincing evidence one way or another to show me one is clearly better, I’m going to assume that sprints are about the same as jogging.

    However, I’m know for a fact that doing either (or doing sprints for however long you want) is MUCH better than doing nothing. So pick the workout that you like, even if it’s slightly less than ideal. First because we’re not quite sure what the “ideal” is and second because the workout you like is the one you’re likely to stick with rather than give up on.

    That was my point. 🙂

    Gal

  29. doing both are probably better for fat loss – IF you don’t overdo it

    I agree with most of your second paragraph, but as I stated earlier NO ONE sprints for 40 min.

    Maybe you meant HIIT, but even for that its hard to find experts advising over 20min of intervals. 5-15 is usually the norm I’ve seen.

    I personally do both. Neither is a lot of fun for different reasons. LISS (esp. when done on a treadmill) can be mind-numbingly boring. I mean really boring. HIIT – if your doing it right is HARD. REALLY HARD.

    Still it is pretty obvious to me that sprints are better for retention of muscle mass. They are MUCH MORE TAXING, even when done for half the time.

    If people like to spend an hour doing LISS vs. 20 min sprints with a warm up and cool down be my guest.

  30. Mark, I like your site, but like so many evolutionary arguments/controversies, this is really a contest of “just so” stories.

    For me, the evidence is really compelling in some aspects. Take sweat glands — long distance running is pretty much the only real use for them.

    1. ….not really @Tomasz T., nice try though. Sweat glands are used anytime the body needs to cool itself off. It’s a survival tool and long distance running is definitely not the only time they are useful to human health.

  31. “All the best athletes are black” is a truism.

    However I have read some compleeing evidence that *specific* East African populations are genetically loaded to produce more slow twitch muscle fibres (I think I got that the right way round) hence those skinny distance runners who go on and on.

    *Specific* West African populations have genes which predispose to more fast twitch fibres, hence the sprinters with their big round muscles (Merlene Ottey I still love you!)

    (*Specific* Australian populations have hugely increased visual acuity and eidetic recall.)

    It’s all coincidence that they are black, probably since they evolved way back when we were *all* black, and for some reason (probably environmental) these factors have persisted in these populations while the rest of us became more generalised.

    What would be really interesting would be to compare the physiologies and fuel usage from one of those Kenyan distance runners and a Jamaican sprinter as two ends of the genetic spectrum. I suspect the aerobic/anaerobic balance would be quite different.

    Just been for a long slow walk along by the river. Apart from coffee I have had nothing since breakfast. I just stuffed an oatcake slathered in peanut butter and am about to hit up the garden for some vigorous weed pulling. After that some chicken stir fried with coloured peppers and garlic etc. I’ve probably had less than 20g carbs all day so far. Meanwhile a cousin just ran the London Marathon, I shudder to think what she ate.

  32. @ LisaR

    If you’re arguing that you’ll eat back your calories due to sprints, then WHY WOULD YOU ARGUE FOR A GREATER CALORIE BURN DUE TO LISS? Totally dismisses your first two points.

    Lyle McDonald is also known for advocating 2-3 HIIT sessions/week. He is against EVERYDAY HIIT WITH NO RECOVERY. You misinterpreted him.

    Sprints don’t give you poor results. That makes no sense at all. Unless you aren’t really doing them hard.
    And if somehow you were doing sprints, if they weren’t giving you results why in gods name would you continue to do them for ELEVEN years?

    Remember for most people their goal is to lose fat WHILE WHILE WHILE retaining muscle! Sprints are superior to that. Also they don’t hurt when trying to increase speed for a sport – usually another goal of many, myself being no different.

    How can you site a mainstream researcher who is anon. ?

    Most sane people again believe that moderation is usually the best answer when it comes to fitness or NEARLY anything else. Putting yourself firmly in one camp (LISS) and saying the other(HIIT) is basically useless is foolish and/or ignorant in my opinion.

    Both should be utilized. Personally I prefer HIIT and weight training but I do all three for their synergistic benifits.

    Oh and intensity is def. something you want. Hell you can correlate fat loss with just diet and not much else. Most of the fat loss generally is generated by either diet (or drugs if you look at nonnaturals). Go starve yourself, you’ll lose fat damn fast ask the the AUSCHWITZ SURVIVORS.

    http://chromatism.net/current/images/auschwitz.jpg

  33. @LisaR

    Did you even read what I wrote?! Please go back and reread. Maybe even twice. And name calling/altering is usually the sign of someone who is a sore “loser”.

    I never said I advocated HIIT or LISS. I DO BOTH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Please reread what I read and respond to each point if you are able and inspired. Maybe your someone who can’t discuss this and has their mind made up. You sound like someone who is inflexible and acting immature.

    I never claimed to be a scientist, but at least I don’t make absurd claims.

    I seemed to have made you very angry. If this somehow angers you more and you respond similar to the previous manner, I will admit that you are NOT worth my time. You will get no more response from me.

    Please act like an adult and tell me SPECIFICALLY (POINT BY POINT) WHAT I SAID THAT WAS WRONG.

    Thanks.

  34. In the previous comment it should say “Please reread what I wrote and respond…..”

    🙂

  35. Let the record show that David has given up on Liza. He has realized that two-way communication with it, is a forlorn endeavor.

  36. Sprints don’t directly burn fat, but exercises which use the fast-twitch muscle fibers, like sprinting, jumping, and climbing, promote fat loss by increasing cellular mitochondria numbers by as much as a factor of five; and mitochondria burn fat even when you’re not exercising. Now, Tabata, which uses short rests, does seem extreme–like flirting with a heart attack (a personal concern as I’m 66). Actually, the ideal for maximum fat loss is doing one sprint every hour. But I just go once a week for a 40 minute walk along an asphalt creek trail and do a group of sprints with 2 to 2 ½ minute rests. Or, at the beach I include a lot of sprinting and jumping. And an all-out sprint can be exciting!

    I don’t consider a lot of jogging natural, but I do a little, about one minute each week or so and enjoy it. On the savannah, the movement and noise of jogging would only attract predators, and would reduce your ability to detect danger. An avid woman trail runner was killed a few years ago by a mountain lion on a river canyon trail where I walk only. She was attacked from behind, and her neck was probably broken before she could be aware.

    I’ve been influenced lately by Edwan le Corre toward more natural forms of intense exercise. Sprint up to a tree, jump up high, grab a limb, and do pull-ups. Or do a series of short sprints and long jumps. Gyms, for bad weather use, could be made more natural. Get rid of the steel bars. It’s not natural to load the spine with hundreds of pounds easily grasped by the hands—and instead, provide difficult, bulky shapes for lifting like boulders and logs. And include climbing walls and jumping pits. Or toss and catch 6-foot wooden poles while running—alone or with a partner—maybe at the beach.

    In our high stress society, most forms of exercise actually reduce the destructive effects of cortisol—especially on the brain. Daily exercise provides the missing “fight or flight”.

  37. Humans were long distance travelers, by running, walking, swimming, etc. But you think we competed with animals in ancient times. No, we competed with eachother. And it paid to be faster and stronger and able to cover more ground than the competition. Sometimes it paid to have great long distance endurance and speed when getting to the best hunting grounds faster, or when a warrior double-timed it to get the advance on his enemy, and still be ready for battle. Only the strongest and most enduring would survive. Most people didn’t live long back then. No need to worry about old age problems when you were lucky to live to 30. People of today have an easy life. I think the armies of Alexander the Great and other ancient armies had to have great long distance endurance to be able to travel the distances they did and still fight. Only the elite rode horses. But I don’t think that running at your maximum heartrate for competition is good for you at any distance. But running at a medium level probably is. It keeps me in shape and strong and I’m 42 running about 18 miles a week. I’m not heavy, so no ankle worries. I actually don’t eat much carbs.

  38. Even though I have little truly scientific knowledge about this, I would agree with the following.

    1. The human body is inferior to animals – except for long-distance running. The best long-distance runners can outrun any animal, whether it be a horse or dog.

    2. However, it’s not right to say that we evolved into long distance runners, for some of our ancestors did not hunt, but instead walked around and gathered stuff. Thus, while some of our traits are indeed advantageous for running (hence #1), many are not.

    3. It’s not clear cut and never will be. I’m a high school “long” distance runner with a 9:33 2 mile/ 4:32 mile and one would NEVER think that my parents are indeed my parents, if you get my drift. Theres no way they would, could, or should run.

  39. Well guess what Gene, I think Mark has a lot more than his own personal expierience to work off of. I’ll tell you about mine, and im sure mine is similiar to others. I’m 18 now, and used to be a long distance runner; ran in high school. I ran about 40-50 miles a week, 5 days a week, for leisure(more like grueling work), and upwards of 70-80 for competition. I was pretty good, and always ran at medieum-high intensity. What was the payoff for this? I had to consume ALOT of food, mainly processed crap, and guess what? I felt like CRAP. I was always sick, but kept running. I had a myriad of leg injuries, and always felt tired. Very similiar to Mark…I was also underweight even with all the eating I did, and had little muscle mass. Eventually, I quit, I was tired of it all, and felt depressed. A couple months after I quit, I stumbled on this website, and tried the workouts suggested and food. Within a coupple weels I felt absolutely amazing. My leg injuries started disappearing one by one, even though I sprinted on them hard 2-3 times a week. I am never sick, and always feel energized. My blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglycerides have lowered. After a couple months of this primal eating and short intense workouts, My body fat is a low 7 percent! It was 12 when I did long distance running. I dont need to work out as much and still have gained and maintained much more muscle mass and healthy weight than before (from 130 pounds to 155 with still 7 percent BF). Went from benching 105 to 165, and hope to get to 200 in the next couple months. I don’t know about records or fossils or anything about that I will admit, so i cant argue from a scientific standpoint, but does it really matter when you have personal expiereinces such as mine and Marks? This site is about reshaping your body and fitness to be the best it can be, and it has worked amazingly for me, and I can’t thank Mark enough for opening my eyes to it. I think it’s good in making exercise arguments to go off of empirical evidence, and whatever the fossil record may suggest, me and so many others on this site have the empirical evidence to show you that this works man, and that maybe it is an indicator that from an evolutionary standpoint this is the way to achieve optimum health.

    1. You are 18? Some people have been running 3x as long as you are alive. I do not mean to discount your observations, but your don’t have much experience to back them up.

      Why did you have to consume a lot of processed food? I am 52 and I run 50+ miles a week and plan to run a 100 mile race in July. I don’t eat any processed food. I eat low carb. Run long and slow. I feel great.

      1. Yes. I am a mortician and have embalmed people who smoked until they are 90.

        You are using the oldest trick in the book to back up your argument….. “but that person is still doing it , so it must be Ok ”

        The fact is, a huge majority of smokers die younger, and a huge majority of young runners are injury plagued by mid 20s and are forced to give up.

        A small % are left to run in marathons.

        Saying otherwise is highly unethical and just makes everything else you say come under a cloud of doubt.

  40. I don’t know where to put this comment, if I want it to be seen… Anyway, I’m fairly active and I mainly single speed mountain bike. The other day I tried some full on sprints on the sidewalk in front of my house. I didn’t sprint very far, and I only did a few. I cannot believe how sore my hip flexors and upper thighs are! I had no idea this would happen, can’t believe how long the soreness is lasting, and can’t believe how much I use these every day and don’t realize it. Is this normal for someone starting out with sprinting?

  41. Its very normal. I experienced the same thing. We do use these muscles daily but not with this kind of intensity.

    Give it a few days or even a week and go again. Gradually the recovery will only take a day or even less.

    The first time I did full-out sprints it took me about 9 days to recover, but then I did go a bit nuts the first time. IS there any other way to sprint?
    I’ll say this about it, it is exhilarating and exciting to move that fast!

    1. koko,

      Thanks for the reply! I’m so glad to know this is normal. I was just trying it out with my dog running down the grass. It does seem like something I should continue. I only did 3 or 5 short sprints that day… I’ll give it time, and increase my numbers and or distance slowly.

      Hopefully it will help my mountain bike riding as well!

  42. If we didn’t evolve to be long distance runners, why are we good at it? I think you’re forgetting that literally all of our qualities are a result of darwinian evolution. Persistence hunting does not rely on heat stroke, it relies on wounding an animal with thrown weapons and then tracking it until it is weak enough to kill without significant physical risk, and it is still practiced by most aboriginals today.

  43. Look up Tarahumara Indians or their actual name Raramuri. They are capable of keeping pace with deers and even let them run from them until they collapse of exhaustion. And yes they still exist in the Copper Canyons of Mexico. They are amazing ultra distance runners and can run all day and do it again the next. We originally did evolve into long-distance runners but tools made it so that it was not a necessity.

    1. They do not run, they shuffle. And they do not do it alone.

      It is also done in loose fitting shoes and on uneven soft ground running around stony ground.

      And it is not a race. It is not timed.

      Nothing like the OCD on road running that is promoted as emulating their hunting techniques.

      If you do not understand how these two completely different running methods are in massive conflict with each other. I suggest you know nothing about the human body. And are deliberately missing out important points to fit your pre-existing bias.

      Eg……. These tribes do not need hip replacements.
      Your crowd does.

      If that does not get you thinking. Nothing will.

  44. Hello: I found this blog while researching bipedalism in human species, mostly scientific papers. It’s helpful to read comments by actual runners instead of “guesses” by researchers. One thing I would say, is that just about everyone projects modern lifestyles on early humans, but this is backwards: how we use our bodies for locomotion is a result of bipedalism; there are no goals in evolution. Hunting is the result of exploiting our various abilities. Thanks…

  45. Beeing an endurance runner myself, I think Mark is wrong.

    Mark writes that the Tarahumara’s exceptionall skills in endurance run is a culteral adaption and not genetic, because “no cars, no phones…”. But 10000 years ago, who had a phone? We were forced to run if we want to communicate or find food or a mate. If you were a better runner you had an advantage, the walker were left behind.

    We evolved on the african steppes and there you have to run to get a deer. Even if we were only scavangers we had to run when we saw a vulture, othervise they get the carrioin, not we.

  46. Speaking of selection, there is another explanation as to why strong, well developed gluteus maximus muscles are adaptive. They really look nice.

    1. LOL is that like the male ostrich feathers argument of “they really look nice to the ladies”? (hint: some male fowl that mate for life have bright shiny feathers so certain other animals will spot them first instead of the mother and offspring…)

  47. Glad to see you revived this post in the new year!
    I think, however, you are throwing the baby out with the bathwater by dismissing Lieberman’s (and McDougal’s) theories.
    In fact, as a couple posters above have commented, your points about human movement and evolution do not discredit the notion that we evolved as long distance trackers, but rather seem to reinforce it!
    I enjoy your writing and agree with many of your opinions, Mark, and I would invite you to look closer into what makes us distinctly, uniquely human. More and more evidence points to the fact we were, in fact, born to run.

  48. Like with anything in life; dig deeper and I bet you’d find a gradient. The adaptations that improve Humans ability to run long (slow) distances and the possibility early Humans scavenged dead carcasses for meat aren’t mutually exclusive ideas. Running may be a bigger part of acquiring meat in one locale but in another maybe scavenging was the way to go (and how else would you avoid the large cats who also want to scavenge that nice carcass you’ve found?).

  49. I’m not a runner, but I stumbled onto this discussion when researching bipedalism in humans. It seems clear that walking upright is the primary human attribute, but that running didn’t come until after the development of the Achilles tendon. So our early ancestors were SLOW. Bipedalism set off a chain of events; female pelvis had to reshape, which forced early birth, which provided the opportunity for the brain to grow and develop in the outside environment rather than solely in utero. The example often cited of Bushmen running down prey is outrageously inefficient! The carcass may be 20-30 miles away from the people who need fed; predators may steal it, and very little can be carried back to the home folks. Then the hunt starts all over again. And what if your “runner” gets killed. Tough luck. That’s why Bushmen are subsistence nomads and we are FAT.

    1. Interesting points… the prey can restore all lost sweat/electrolytes (from blood) and perhaps have enough nutrients, protein to even restore burned off muscles and antioxidants. But little of the carcass could be carried over… or could they? What if long distance jogger-hunters hunted in packs and each one carried a part of the carcass? We are built to Lift Heavy Things afterall…

      But I think ambushing with poison arrows if far better, especially since we can set traps (i.e. lay food on the ground) and climb trees and hide…

      However, what did we do before we had bow/poison technology? Use throwing spears? Okay… and what did we do when we only had blubs and rocks? Scavenge and eat bugs exclisively? Maybe…….

  50. I would have to disagree. It seems to me from my personal experience, and from an evolutionary standpoint, that humans are natural long distance runners, and are definitely not sprinters.

    1. I would have to disagree. It seems to me from my personal experience, and from an evolutionary standpoint, that humans are natural sprinters, and are definitely not long distance runners.

      1. I would have to disagree. It seems to me from my personal experience, and from an evolutionary standpoint, that humans are natural couch potatoes, and are definitely not runners.

  51. I wonder if aside from the evolutionary standpoint you took in consideration the effects of running shoes and the western diet effects? Two books that you may want to read are born to run and in defense of food. I think this argument can’t stand until we remove the danger of our running shoes.

  52. Regarding my previous comment, I now see that you have already reviewed the book and you actually support barefoot running.

  53. Nice article, except for it’s lack of scientific evidence.

    As for the main point of the argument, that eating animals won’t supply a runner with enough glucose/glycogen stores, Lieberman does not say that persistence hunters exclusively used glycogen stores. In fact, his theory is to utilize fat to produce the energy to run, as in his opinion, it will take you the distance.

    1. I think it really depends what people mean by distance-running;

      is it jogging level speed with just enough speed to spook prey into constantly sprinting/exhausting itself, and that can be maintained without too much exhaustion

      or is it marathoner-level running speed where you push your body to really run and burn sugar

  54. Hello: We have a problem here that I call Walt Disney evolution: An ape was not hanging in a tree 4 m.y.a. (bibedalism appears at least that early) when a thought balloon popped up over it’s head that said, “I think I’ll become bipedal so I can run long distances!” The ape did not
    drop out of the tree and become George of the Jungle.

    Our species did not “come up with” bipedalism which predates us by 3.5 m.y. at least: Ardipithecus and “Lucy” plus various extinct apes. We evolved from species that were already bipedal and living “on the ground.” Such a big fuss is made over ground dwelling, as if thousands of other species that are ground dwellers don’t exist.

    To argue BACKWARDS from the behavior of individual humans living today to explain why physical traits exist is crazy. We can train a chimp to fire a handgun; that does not mean that chimps evolved flexible fingers in order to shoot a gun!

    By the way: bipedalism first appeared in a reptile 290 m.y.a.; then in the branch of dinosaurs which led to birds. It is only our narcissism (and religious hangover) that says we are utterly unique and extraordinary.

  55. The Bushmen do persistent hunt, and they do not farm. So, their goes that theory.

  56. In my experience women are much more attracted to the body of a sprinter (well-defined)than that of long distance runner (mostly skinny), I wonder why they have that preference?

    Attraction aint a choice either, its hardwired.

    1. Marko, that’s because a sprinter is much more likely to be an athlete than a distance runner is. Most distance runners nowadays do nothing but run, eliminating efforts that build the body to do more than run. Women tend to be attracted to male bodies that appear capable of many different things. Look to cultures that run (ran) and you’ll see that they also did many other things. Look at Native Americans who ran. Look at African Bushmen. Look at the Tarahumara. They are athletes that are (were) able to do things most modern Americans would consider miraculous, and they looked darn good doing it. That’s the difference between an athlete and a runner, and I agree with you, the difference between attractive and not.

  57. It’s one thing to have an opinion, but you have no facts to back up anything you say. Dr. Lieberman and his colleagues may or may not be correct in their findings, but they do have solid evidence that does make logical sense. You may not believe that any human could evolve to run long distances, but then again you probably don’t want to either because then you won’t feel guilty when you’re sitting on the couch with a beer.

    1. Wow, you hit the nail right on the head! When not researching nor writing about primal diet and fitness, or reminescing on his much, much, much healthier days as a triathlete and long distance runner following conventional dieting wisdom and eating modern foods Mark does tend to sit around the tv with a beer in hand, hence the amazing beer belly you see him sporting in every one of his pics.

  58. I am a little late to this party just finishing the book “Born To Run” yesterday. It seems Mark and the science in the book agree on most everything, i.e. running shoes suck, man evolved for long-distance movement, protein initiated the brain size increase, etc.

    The only discussion point is how fast did primal man move long distances? The amount of effort is proportional to the aerobic capacity both inherent and due to physical conditioning. So, a fast walk to one person/tribe may be a jog to another. Don’t you think?

    Anyhow, I think there is much more to agree upon here than to argue other than the diet the Tarahumara eat. Is there any scientific evidence on the health and longevity of the Tarahumara that might shed light on the relative merits/problems of their reliance on corn?

  59. What if I don’t believe in evolution? Can I still eat Primal? 🙂

  60. Pardon me for not reading through all of the comments, and I apologize if what I say is repetition. I understand the ER theory recognizes that early humans were scavengers. I also don’t think it requires humans to run marathon distances. We must realize that large “roadkill” carcases are obvious at long distances via observation of local scavenger birds. Also, it would be important to get to the site of a carcase quickly and not just at a mere walking pace; this way you have a better chance of beating the competition to the prize. I agree that it is ridiculous to expect early or modern humans to be able to run their prey to death, that is until I see some evidence otherwise.

      1. Yes, I recently heard on NPR science that some hunters in africa actually do run their prey to exhaustion. Thanks for the follow-up. I also realize that the guy who runs this site has a rather sizable conflict of interest.

  61. To add to my earlier comments, it is also important to keep in mind that humans are genetically and morphologically very diverse and the pressures that could have forced us toward running relaxed around the time we invented agriculture.

  62. I’ve been following this discussion for awhile, and I think there’s a conceptual problem: No organism evolves “to be” anything – there is no such goal in evolution. That idea is BACKWARDS. Organisms evolve due to conditions in specific environments, that’s why its important to know where hominids originated. Also, most of the changes we label as “human” ocurred BEFORE Homo sapiens, in Homo erectus,who would be difficult to distinguish from many modern humans. Brain size went from 400 cc (apes like “Lucy”) to 900 cc in H. erectus. The rapid increase is likely due to a diet high in fatty acids and concentrated calories: bone marrow and brains being the prime source. These are essential to producing and maintaining a large brain, so this diet would have preceded brain size increase. This includes animal carcasses AND other hominids: H. erectus and later, Homo sapiens may have cannibalized our way to big brain domination. Speedier bipedal locomotion would have favored the predatory human; limited bipedal abilities would have become a deficit.
    Short bursts of speed may have produced an edge for scavengers and hunters, with long distance running being an adaptation to specific environments, which we see in humans today.

    When humans began adapting to a wider variety of environments by using animal transport (horses, camels, etc.) and then by invention (boats, chariots, trains, planes etc.) these quickly outpaced evolutionary change. Evolution is slow, technology is immediate.

  63. Humans still have a somewhat hard time adapting to walking on two feet (more prone to back pain, knee injuries). Wouldn’t it make sense to say we evolved to hunt while crawling? :p

  64. We keep confusing “lifestyle” for some goal of evolution! Lifestyle is adaptation: people who work in offices, sitting most of the time, who don’t get exercise, ie sedentary Americans, have back problems. All our gizmos and medical intervention are attempts to adapt to unhealthy environments of our own creation. This poes for pregnancy / birth problems too: healthy women with well-developed bone and muscle systems don’t have childbirth problems. We’ve developed a multi-billion dollar industry around childbirth, which is NOT inherently dangerous or difficult in humans. All this intervention is an attempt at adapting ourselves to unhealthy environments that we have created! American women are unhealthy, and therefore we see high rates of preemies, birth defects, etc. This is why, despite the fabulous sums we spend on healthcare, the US ranks low on medical outcomes.

  65. Dear Author,

    You either contradict yourself or show your complete ingnorance of endurance running/distance athleticism. Running very long distances is ALL ABOUT staying in the fat burning zone. Talk to a triathlete or ultra runner. They keep heart rates low and energy on a nearly never ending tap.

    “If men did most of the hunting, how is it that women are better suited to ultra running than men ”
    Simple, hunting was not a solitary man practise, or even a men’s only practice. Moving to the food, whether persistence hunting it or moving to the “roadkill” to scavenge involved bringing the whole family. And if you want to get there before other scavengers, you had better trot along and a good clip, not simply walk and hope it’s there when you get there.

    “I say we learned to run marathons when we had the luxury of unlimited carbohydrates.”
    Then you have no idea what you are talking about, and this entire response will fall on deaf ears. You need to understand that long distance events are not about carbs. Until then you will always sound like you don’t know what you’re talking about.

    As to your paragraph on the squat, you show your lack of understanding of basic anthropology and how the body moves from one place to another. Have you ever seen monkeys, apes, and other primates resting? What pose to they rest in? Oh yeah, it’s the squat. And somehow they don’t have massive glutes. Glutes are not used in resting, barely needed in rising from a crouch, not used much in walking, and only truly necessary for running.

    You really need to keep in mind that endurance running is the one and only physical activity that we are better at than all other land animals. We are terrible sprinters. Most every predator and prey animal can out sprint us.

    If our bodies only ever needed to walk, scramble, and sprint as you suggest, homo sapiens would never have come to dominate the planet and other stronger, faster, and smarter bipeds would run the wolrd.

    1. Ok, so can YOU run a sub 3:00 hr marathon relying only on fats? I’m sure I can walk 26.2 miles on fats, but I can’t run it faster than 8min/mile pace without tapping into my glycogen stores.

  66. Boy – this discussion gets really silly!
    If women only mated with “beautiful” men, then ALL men today would look like T.O. or Muhammed Ali! Sickly-looking NERDS (science guys) would not exist, nor would advanced technology. At the top of the wealth-status ladder we see ugly old rich guys parading around young fertile wives: it’s STATUS women go for in the long run – pun intended.

    As for butt muscles – these are necessary to maintain a bipedal stance -standing or walking is a controlled fall, and the glutes interrupt that fall so that weight can shift to the opposite leg.

    Fatty acids are vital to fueling the brain; about 50% of calories are used to operate the brain. It’s obvious that running as the means of making a living was left in the dust by tool-making and other inventive technology.

    Pretty boys? Give me a man with brains!

    1. What’s silly is trying to explain biology, anthropology, biomechanics, and kinesiology to people too close-minded to even listen, let alone consider a point of view.

      OK, I guess I’m feeling silly, I’ll give you the short version. Your hot-chick-wants-a-ruch-guy example is irrelevant to evolution. We have created a world where evolutionary forces have almost no effect on our lives. Way back when, the instinct was to survive long enough to reproduce. Now it’s to find a source of wealth to fuel our desire for self comfort. Think about it, when is the last time you worried about living to teh end of the week. I’d say odds are good you were more concerned with how to spend your money this weekend.

      As for glutes, as I already explained, yes, they are needed for standing and walking, but nowhere near the size that we have them. Look at other primates that are fully able to stand and walk and squat. They have no rump. They have tiny little glutes that are enough to get around. They do not have massive butts. We do. There is no reason for them other than to jog.

      As for your third paragraph, that wasn’t always teh case. We are talking about evolution, remember? In order to find those calories and high quality fats and proteins, we needed a change in food sources. We got that food source by running to it/running it down. We became tool users because we ran.

      1. Where to start? I’m sorry, but the mistakes in your thinking are too numerous to address; magical thinking is the basis for your contentions. (False cause and effect) It’s a HUGE problem among Americans, even those who are educated.

        “WE became tool users BECAUSE WE RAN” This ludicrous statement alone demonstrates that you have no grasp (pun intended) of animal evolution.

        As for glutes: please check out the anatomy of BIPEDAL DINOSAURS.

  67. Statused males are the exception; so If male status is paramount, how are there so many couples?

    The glutes can be used and are important for walking. For example, when the right foot is forward with respect to the pelvis, and planted, then begin to contract the right buttock. Esther Gokhale calls this Glidewalking.

    I’m not sure that the glutes can be used for running, but they may be used for jogging if you build your stride around glute contraction. I’ve experimented a little and thought it might have some potential. And I’ve tried this while sprinting, but am unsure about the potential for buttock use here. The required contraction rate seems too high and the landed foot seems too far forward for the short time it is still planted. Gokhale is supposed to return to Africa and do more movement observations, this time of native’s running.

    Glutes are a lot smaller than our fat-padded rear ends suggest. A body builder with virtually no body fat has surprisingly small buttocks. So, while we do have “big butts”, the perception of size is due to thick fat, not active muscle.

    1. Glutes CAN BE USED FOR…..

      Glutes are NECESSARY for bipedalism. Human anatomy today is the RESULT of becoming bipedal. Please read an anatomy text and go back to basics with how evolution works. This isn’t guesswork or opinion: it’s physics, chemistry, mechanics, anthropology, paleontology, geology.

      Cheez Whiz!

  68. Of course, the two smaller gluteus muscles help keep the body upright during walking. However, in the developed countries, the gluteus maximus muscle is not utilized significantly to propel the pelvis (and body) forward after the forward foot is planted. We tend to use only the hip flexors and quads to swing the leg forward and then catch ourselves with some impact and joint stress. Glide (third world) walking uses the gluteus maximus, psoas, and calf muscles for a smoother stride. The crucial feature is gradual to full contraction of the gluteus maximus at the right time. Try it and see the difference!

  69. How can you disagree? For one i see fat dudes running marathons all the time. Hell I watched a really really chubby guy win a 12k race just last weekend in the town im living. No way is distance jogging the ultimate fit mans sport. Referring to Mark’s post: best quote, “[…]but to think that natural selection redesigned our simian shapes to run the Boston Marathon is, in my opinion, ludicrous.
    Personally, I find marathons laughable, as well. Why not just walk that distance over a longer time??

    1. will obviously everyone else was out of shape also. In track or crosscountry in my school there are no chubby kids, everyone is lean and fast. Just to show off a bit I got first a few times in track last year and probly will this year also for distances 400m – 1600m. In the story this is the part that amazed me “early humans would run an animal to death by chasing it for for 5 or 10 miles until it died of heat stroke.” man that sounds amazing I think ill try it some time gonna go find me a gazzel or something and chase it down to death lol

  70. Interesting discussion; I think both camps have valid arguments. One argument that favors the theory that humans evolved to be long distance runners is the lack of fur, and the presence of sweat glands. We know that animals cool off by panting because they lack sweat glands on their skin. This is why they can only sprint for relatively short distances; otherwise they would overheat and die. Humans on the other hand can run for long distances due to the efficiency of their sweat glands. The sweat glands basically make the entire skin surface an efficient heat exchanger. I tend to believe that early humans did do endurance running, but not often; and mostly walked. I’d say they ran to save time; for example, getting close to a herd of animals before the sun set in order to get dinner for that day.

  71. I guess we did not exactly evolve to ride bicycles, but Lance Armstrong was an example of how we have become a species able to physically endure in a number of situations.

  72. Of coarse people were made to run long distance…why do you think humans can run longer than any other animal on the planet? we evolved to be able to breath and run, which allowed us to stand up erect. Also, we sweat to cool ourselves unlike any other animal…..Everyone read this amazing book! Born to Run by Christopher McDougall

  73. I just got some Five-Fingers a couple weeks ago. I LOVE them. At this stage I’m alternating between my “regular” running shoes and my Five-Fingers to sort of “work up” my calves/shins, but I can see myself preferring the Five-Fingers in the long run. (Pun initially not intended, but upon reading that, it seems right.) I do everything else barefoot, why not run barefoot too!

  74. This is a little off-topic (I’m definitely more into the “Eat” and “Read” aspects of your blog), but wondering if you’ve read “The Myth of Wild Africa” by Jonathan Adams and Thomas McShane. Just read it for an environmental history course and I’d be curious to know your thoughts since you have some first-hand experience with Africa. If you haven’t, I’d recommend it – it’s interesting (albeit 20 years old) and very readable. Thanks.

  75. And as far as the ERglute connection, empirically I’d note that I’ve seen many proficient distance runners with pretty insignificant/undeveloped glutes. At least relatively to other athletes/lifestyles.

  76. Might I ask how you came to this conclusion: “First, much of the fossil record suggests early humans were scavengers and lived pretty well off road kill until they started employing weapons a few hundred thousand years ago.”

    In the fossil record, wouldn’t scavenging and persistence hunting be pretty much identical? There’s no way of knowing if the kill was happened upon purely by chance, or if the kill was happened upon because of pursuit…

  77. i dont know if the author is right. but it is pretty much fact that humans are great long distance runners…

  78. If you’re interested in cars, think about humans as a engine with a lot of torque, but less horsepower. The engine produces most of its energy at low RPMs, and cannot rev too high.

    Running marathons and doing cardiovascular exercises is like an engine with low torque, but a lot of horsepower. The engine produces most of its energy at high RPMs.

  79. Actually humans are the fastest land animal over long distances and in fact we are the ONLY animal that can force themselves to run long distances constantly..its also to do with thermo regulation apparrantly other mammals overheat after a long time and slow down which is when hunters …there are many adaptations in the human body useful only to running long distances and they are not found in other primates. Other primates cannot run well or even travel over great distances. Our bipdalism is key to our success as a species and to really develop good thorough prambulation skills and to develop those muscles you need to develop every gait sufficiently. Also in either a hunter gatherer or sheparding lifestyle YOU NEED to be able to jog long distances and that is a fact. It is key to the practise of Persistance Hunting which dates back http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090319142411.htm To suggest that we did not evolve to be better long distance runners shows you do not understabd evolution we a better runners than all of our ancestors…we evolved to be better runners ..it may not be the entire reason we are successful…but we are the best runners out of all primates and out of all primates we have the best body for running sorry Mark the science just does not point to your theory at this point

  80. I came to this article looking for specific arguments against human endurance running. I don’t feel that this author addressed any of the points looked to as proof for this theory. His argument about no difference between short and long toes for walking just gives credence to the idea that we evolved short toes to run.

    He also doesn’t address the fact that humans have a nuchal ligament to support head movement while running, the fact that we have an achilles tendon and chimps don’t (which would help conserve energy lost during a run), and the fact that we are one of the few animals that is both almost hairless and has a vast quantity of sweat glands.

    This man seems very biased. I hope he starts backing up his points with evidence before he starts arguing against endurance running in the future.

  81. So if there’s no difference in between the cost of walking with short toes versus long toes, than the simple fact that we have short toes should prove that we were not meant to be walkers, as there would be no reason for the short toed people to survive if it did not give an advantage. Which indicates we’re runners as there’s an advantage to having shorter toes while running. Second who says the men did the hunting? It’s absolutely ridiculous to think that women sat on their backsides when they’re the one who benefit from the protein the most, during lactation and pregnancy. Finally I suggest you check out Born to Run, which clearly mentions how the Kalahari bushmen fuel up on plants they scavenge, before runs after runs, (practically all the time really), which include things such as tubers that are, I believe, quite HIGH in carbohydrates, which would restore glycogen stores.

  82. The kalahari bushmen do practice persistence hunting. And compared to most quadrupeds humans are poor sprinters. The fastest human can run only at a speed of 39km/hr. Scavenging may also require endurance running. A human can locate a dead animal by observing scavenger birds circling in sky, which can be many miles from his location. Then he would have to reach the spot before other animals in which case walking or sprinting would not help him.

  83. ”And then there’s this: If men did most of the hunting, how is it that women are better suited to ultra running than men (compared to shorter running events) and a modern female like Ann Trason can beat most men today straight up in every ultra running event she enters? (Granted, she could be an outlier.)”

    Is there any evidence that men did most of the hunting in Paleolithic times? Without any reference, I remember form my anthology course back in college, that hunter-gatherer societies were quite sex-wise egalitarian. I think that this stereotype of women being gatherers and men hunters is another perversion of the Neolithic, where agriculture and not perishable foods permitted hierarchies to appear and women to be considered as an inferior cast of humans societies (as it is in many cultures actually) due to a slight physical strength disadvantage. Women are physically weaker than men, it’s true, but sexual dimorphism in Homo sapiens is not that huge compared to other mammals: Homo sapiens would definitely prefer running down a cow rather than a bull, but I don’t think a tiger or a lion would care between a male or female Homo sapiens to hunt down. Ok, men are stronger than women, but a man is still a defenseless and weak prey to the predators of the African savannah.

    Forgetting that man hunter, women gatherer stereotype, I don’t see why women could not hunt and excel at that theoretical persistence hunting thing.

  84. People seem more able to run long distances than other animals, with their efficient sweating, bipedal movement… a dog could outrun a fit person in a short burst but would tire quickly.

    And if you see persistence hunting videos, the people aren’t running like a marathon runner would. They’re more of jogging, and slow down to a brisk trot at times. The fact is humans seem to have a special capability to run more efficiently over long distances than pretty much any other animal.

    I can’t deny that.

  85. There is a flaw in these proposals: the assumption is made that all humans exhibit the same behavior; all humans are male; all males are hunters. Persistence hunting consists of 2-3 males running down an animal, killing it, and then finding themselves stranded 10-20-30 miles from the people (women, children, other males) who need fed. The hunters must guard the carcass while they rest (overnight) hack off what they can carry, which is a small portion of the animal, and run-walk back to the tribe. The meat is consumed immediately (rotting fast) and everyone is hungry again! This cannot be sustained – the group needs to scavenge and gather anything in the environment that is available to survive.

    The claim by people who are long distance runners that they are evolution’s destiny for our species is arrogant, unscientific and laughable.

  86. How do you reconcile persistence hunting? There is excellent evidence that this was the original form of hunting before projectiles. Two million years of persistence hunting… What do you make of this?

  87. This is an excellent book by a scholar that presents plenty of evidence against both the persistence hunting and scavenging hypotheses:

    Travis Rayne Pickering, Rough and Tumble: Aggression, Hunting, and Human Evolution. Publisher: University of California Press (April 10, 2013). ISBN-10: 0520274008; ISBN-13: 978-0520274006.

    The book argues that proto-humans (Homo erectus and possibly some Austrolopithecenes) were ambush hunting using tools (stone and wooden) quite early (and the meat was an essential component of the diet).

  88. From my recent paper in Human Evolution 28:237-266: “… The nowadays popular ideas about Pleistocene human ancestors running in open plains (‘endurance running’, ‘dogged pursuit of swifter animals’, ‘born to run’, ‘le singe coureur’, ‘Savannahstan’) are among the worst scientific hypotheses ever proposed. The surprising frequency and diversity of foot problems (e.g., hammertoes, hallux valgus and bunions, ingrown nails, heelspurs, athlete’s feet, corns and calluses—some of these due to wearing shoes) and the need to protect our feet with shoes prove that human feet are not made in the first place for running. Moreover, humans are physiologically ill-adapted to dry open milieus: ‘We have a water- and sodium-wasting cooling system of abundant sweat glands, totally unfit for a dry environment. Our maximal urine concentration is much too low for a savanna-dwelling mammal. We need much more water than other primates, and have to drink more often than savanna inhabitants, yet we cannot drink large quantities at a time” (Verhaegen 1987 “Origin of Hominid Bipedalism” Nature 325:305-6).”
    Incredible that are still “scientsts” who believe this Pleistocene Homo running nonsense.
    Human Evolution now publishes the proceedings of the symposium on human waterside evolution ‘Human Evolution: Past, Present & Future’ in London 8-10 May 2013:
    SPECIAL EDITION PART 1 (end 2013)
    Introduction – Peter Rhys-Evans
    1. Human’s Association with Water Bodies: the ‘Exaggerated Diving Reflex’ and its Relationship with the Evolutionary Allometry of Human Pelvic and Brain Sizes – Stephen Oppenheimer
    2. Human Ecological Breadth: Why Neither Savanna nor Aquatic Hypotheses can Hold Water – JH Langdon
    3. Endurance Running versus Underwater Foraging: an Anatomical and Palaeoecological Perspective – Stephen Munro
    4. Wading Hypotheses of the Origin of Human Bipedalism – Algis Kuliukas
    5. The Aquatic Ape Evolves: Common Misconceptions and Unproven Assumptions about the So-Called Aquatic Ape Hypothesis – Marc Verhaegen
    6. The Epigenetic Emergence of Culture at the Coastline: Interaction of Genes, Nutrition, Environment and Demography – CL Broadhurst & Michael Crawford
    SPECIAL EDITION PART 2 (begin 2014) with 12 contributions

    1. That humans get foot problems doesn’t mean we are not evolved for running. For one, humans that run with proper technique while bare foot do not get these problems as much, nor do such humans need shoes when walking around in the wilderness. Shoes are a modern innovation in human history. Two, the human body is not perfectly designed. You might as well be saying that women are not evolved to give birth because of all the problems that entails. We do not have perfectly-evolved feet, we walk upright with a knuckle-walker’s spine, so in that sense, we may be a transitional species as far as evolution goes, women suffer tremendous pain and possible death in childbirth, etc…evolution often only adapts us to be just good enough for things oftentimes.

      Your argument also does not address at all just why it is that humans are so anatomically evolved for distance running. We most certainly are not evolved to be sprinters.

  89. Mark, lopinion is no re is the thing about your claim here, you are not a scientist and you don’t use any data of study of fact in your theory. You are like that guy who created a site abd theory that Neanderthals were ape looking alpha predators who ate and raped humans. It doesn’t make sense and is claimed without a shread of evidence. Your opinon is no replacement for cold hard aquired dsta and scientific evidence. For those who said that they know people who engage in some sort of marathon sporting activity and that these people are constantly sick, that is anecdotal and not admissible. I am a certified wilderness survival teacher and when training for this I often engaged in ER activity when doing so. I was exposed to the elements and was without modern medical intervention and accommodation, I had no illness and have not had even a cold for well over 10 years. The fact is that this ER ability is a trait of humans. You forgot to mention some of the most important evidence in that theory. Humans have an Achilles tendon, it does not exist in any other animal. This trait is directly related to another, humans are the only animals on the planet that use a completely different mechanism to run than to walk. The tendon is a shock absorbing energy storing spring. We prespire, it is the best natural cooling system amoung creatures of Earth. We are among the only animals on Earth who can run aerobically. Most animals cannot breathe and run at the same time, this is true in the cheetah, they can only acheive short bursts of their speed because of this, and they are almost helpless after they do so with their bodies oxygen deprived. Its too far fetched to have evolved these abilities that work in tandem to deny their contribution to ER.

  90. What a pathetic excuse to feel comfortable about being a lazy slob and not doing endurance sports… Unbelievable that some people would go to the extent of doing hours and hours of research just to justify their own lazyness, plus you only rely on personnal experiences rather than solid scientific proofs.. The body adapts, YOUR body and your cardiovascular , if you move, you will have a bigger heart wich will provide your muscles for longer runs, amongst other benefits on the digestive system and such. I’m sick of people finding excuses just because they cant stand endurance sports, find something you like and stick with it, period.. I hate lifting weights, but I do it anyway combined with cardio cause it makes me feel good

  91. Running long distance has nothing to do with being sick, it’s that the people who do run long distance usaly are very skinny and low weight for the proportion of there body which can usaly mean the person only has the nutrients in there body for running and not the other nutrients needed for the immune system and body to function 100% which protect us from sicknesses and disease

  92. Mark, a few questions, if you don’t mind (from an ultra runner, paleo/primal eater and journalist):

    1) Why are you using marathon data and not ultra marathon data? Isn’t a persistence hunt an ultra, not a marathon? And aren’t ultras aerobic, not anaerobic? (Isn’t that why we train/race with heart-rate monitors: so we don’t go aerobic and, instead, build our speed within our aerobic zone?)

    2) When exactly would you be running hard for a long time in a persistence hunt? The longer it goes, the slower the prey gets. I’m guessing here, because I’m not a persistence hunter, but wouldn’t the prey lose you if you walked and didn’t at least run easy in the beginning? Then, tracking skills aside, wouldn’t things just slow down from there?

    3) How exactly does a persistence hunt kill look in the archaeological record, compared to a scavenged site?

    4) If we’re “pretty decent” short sprinters, why can our prey (literally any deer, rabbit, et cetera) run twice as fast as our fastest sprinters?

    5) Why do you focus just on the toe example? What about the couple dozen other indicators in human anatomy that point to long-distance running?

    6) Why do you assume women didn’t participate in persistence hunts? One of the commenters above talks about making a kill, then not being able to drag it back home, but nomadic peoples follow the game–they can’t wait for it to come around. (Again, what does a persistence hunt kill look like in the archaeologic record? How do you know women weren’t there, just because they weren’t there at mastodon kills?)

    7) Why do you mention the Tarahumara (high-carb diet) and not the Kalahari bushmen (San), who traditionally ate mostly nuts and meat? They’re both (were) persistence hunting societies, on very different diets, yet you only mention one. (Sure, the ER people only mention one, but should you limit yourself to one, too?)

    8) How can you be so sure our glutes evolved for squatting and scrambling, but not running?

    9) Are you an archaeologist, anatomist, human evolutionary expert or any other type of expert in this field?

    10) How in the world, as a former elite runner, can you be so ignorant about ultras? I mean, even a newbie ultra athlete can tell you that you don’t run hard in an ultra. A marathon (clearly your wheelhouse), is an interval by comparison. (Literally: a 3-hour interval at 80+ percent max heart rate, versus a 4-24+ hour slog at 70%.)

    I’m sorry to a dink, but I think this piece is a hack job, and I’m frankly tired of reading hack jobs. (This is, to date, the 2nd comment I’ve ever written on a blog or media site–the other one was yesterday to the New York Times).

    There’s plenty of evidence for the running man theory, and this seems more of an uninformed opinion piece than anything else. Why pick and choose, ignoring all the evidence? Why so certain about your position?

    I posed my thoughts as questions and not refutations, because I don’t really know the answers, I wasn’t around 200,000 years ago when the homo sapien design emerged? In my opinion, that’s how a genuinely interested, agenda-agnostic person puts forth their ideas on very, very debatable topics like this.

    Again, not to be a dink, but…
    As an ultra athlete, I’m offended by your ignorance. As a paleo/primal advocate, I’m starting to question your knowledge on that topic.

    Mostly, though, I’m offended as a journalist; by your amateurish approach (i.e., lack of research). As a blogger, you’re inherently a journalist. May I suggest you do some research on what that means?

    1. Common sense is not that common…

      Ultra runners do not kill an animal at the end. Then carry it all the way back to the starting line.
      .

  93. Haha brilliant! so based on a particular 6ft tall tribe in africa, and the fact that a reasonably athletic modern human standing a full foot taller than his recent ancestors (think generations not millennia) and having been raised on a varied and comprehensive diet and just spent the night on the latest scientific wonder mattress can chase down a gazelle (if lucky), proves persistence hunting as important in the development of you as some sort of apex predator which runs down gazelle? It’s a nice and ludicrously fanciful thought.

    Sorry but here’s a crazy alternative theory. The dominant reason for the short toes, the more upright posture, the specialisation toward more efficient land travel is 99.99% driven by our movement out of and away from the trees. I hate to break it to you but life swinging between trees not predatorial specialisation is the likely primary reason for forward facing eyes too.

    How do you avoid being lion lunch? You run. And you don’t stop. That’s what gazelles do. And apparently we’re better at it than they are. Why? because lions don’t pursue prey beyond a sprint.

    Anyway, while we’re discussing crazy alternative theories, chasing down meat may provide some protein but it doesn’t provide any reason for the development of cognitive capability. Hunting in packs and using signals like chimps do, using language, tools, horticulture, agriculture, cooking, these things all favour the development of higher cognitive capacity.

    It looks as if we are once again faced with the age old scientific dilemma: What makes sense versus what we want to believe.

    I like to think that if my ancestors ate rabbit they did so by training other animals to go down the burrow or inventing the shovel and the net. If yours were running about the countryside then for all the modern conveniences you now enjoy -you’re welcome;)

  94. You’ve convinced me simply by mentioning the high carb requirements of long distance runners and the lack of available carb rich foods sources until the advent of agriculture… not to mention much of your other well argued points. I think You’ve casted serious doubt upon ER hypothesis. Very plain and simply argued with sound reasoning.

  95. so all you long distance runners who comment saying things such as “all you need is good training, good diet, good carbs, and optimal 8 hours of rest and I can run all day, I never even get sick”. how do you expect to find all the nutrients to replenish your 7 hour run in an uncontrolled wild and natural environment where each meal could be your last.its easy to be confident when you return home to running water, shelter, ac, all the carbs you could want. If we were born to race down our prey we would have four legs. you really think a human could chase down a deer? have any of you ever been hunting or do you just think running nonstop is enough to survive in the wild. you live in a controlled environment where everyday survival is driving to the nearest grocery store for a protein bar. be real. native tribes would scoff at the notion of running after their prey for 10 miles. I don’t care how old you are and how long you have been running 50 miles a week.you think the animals going to think “oh this guy ran the Boston marathon I should just give up now.

  96. I actually think mixing running, weightlifting, and interval training is the best approach. I imagine our ancestors had to be proficient in a number of activities. I think that running is valuable for ancestors in that it would allow humans to follow herds. You need to be able to follow faster than walking if you want to actually keep up with them over great distances.

    Also, it is important to remember that distance running does burn fat as well as glycogen. Glycogen is used for burst exercise. It is a readily available form of energy similar to creatine-phosphate. Distance running burns fat…especially over time. As you deplete glycogen stores, you transition to fat. The only way you are going to effectively burn fat with intervals is if you have no glycogen stores to begin with. In general, I would classify interval training as more glycogen dependent than distance running.

  97. Our body plan evolved before our intelect did. yes our earliest ancestors started off as scavengers, like homo habalis and rudolfensis, but by the time homo erectus came into being it was obvious they were selected for ER. There is a mountain of evidence to support the hypothesis, from biomechanics to skeletal structures and stresses seen on erectus fossils. The change may have gradually started during scavenging events when our ancestors learned to interpret signs like spoting vultures in the distance circling a potential meal; they would have had to run if they were going to get to it before lions and hyenas. It should be noted that erectus is our primary endurance runner, modern humans simply inherited the ER body plan but we are varied, some of us are more suited for ER than others. Neaderthal for instance evolved away from ER and were actually better walkers as indicated by their larger heels and smaller cochlea. And as you may know, modern non Africans are up to 4% neaderthal. The gene pool is mixed.

  98. First off, running on sealed roads is unnatural. So their entire argument falls over by not disclosing this before any conversation starts.

    (1) Long distance running is very important to humans. Because that’s how we used to hunt. Really ??

    Absolute made up BS theory that has been debunked. Only two locations on the globe was persistence hunting practiced….. By teams of 3 men, all only slowly jogging in a large triangle pattern. Forcing the animal to zig / zag large distances until it died of heat exhaustion.

    Not; This only worked in very hot climates. So was never practiced by most most humans.

    (2) We usually relied in small pray ( goats etc… that could be caught and killed by hand. But it had to be a daily ritual ) ) . Using anaerobic activity. lots of 30 second burst of fight / flight.

    (3) We did start walking upright for calorie / economy reasons . When we developed the first sharp pointed weapons. We gave ourselves a top end predator advantage overnight. ( a deep stab = blood pressure drop . So even the biggest pray gets weak and slow quickly. )

    So we could bring down much larger pray which fed entire tribes. .

    Only one problem……. larger mammals migrate, ( small mammals don’t ) These migrations are thousands of miles a year. So some humans choose to hunt migration patterns. Which means lots of walking.

    (4) You have to build up a sweat and run out of breath to exercise……. again complete BS.

    As primates. We can naturally move all day, sprint, climb, swim with no damage to our bodies. And just like climbers who move slowly, methodically. Never sweat or get their heart rate up . Or Children who left to their own devices ( like animals ) will remain active all day without looking like they pushing themselves.

    Notice you will NEVER see a Kid run long distance for fun. Or even get out of breath while playing hard all day.

    Academic exercise myths are our enemy. If you really want to change the world. They all need to be crushed.

    Important after note: To those who point to anthropology to back up any ER theory.

    Approx. 70,000 years ago a super volcano in Indonesia wiped most of use out. And locked mankind into small pockets surrounded by ice mountains / glaciers etc… around the globe. Most of these environments were not suited to ER. eg… Europe , Asia …. only Africa and Australia was left not decimated. ( explaining the mass immigration of Aborigines to Australia.)

    It is estimated only 9 colonies of humans were left . With as little at 10,000 breeding pairs globally.

    Just helps you understand how our development over time is not a simple story.

  99. Humans were most definitely born to run distance. That we get problems means nothing, as we are likely a transitional species, not 100% adapted. For example, although we walk upright, we do so with a knuckle-walker’s spine. We have not yet evolved a spine specifically-adapted for upright walking as a primate. Similarly, that we get problems in our feet from running distance again means nothing. The foot is not 100% a perfect design.

    In terms of why we are born for endurance, well for one, we are NOT any kind of decent sprinter. We sprint extremely slow and can only maintain a sprint for half the time most animals can. We DO have the following traits however:

    1) HUGE amount of slow-twitch muscle fibers in comparison to other animals

    2) HUGE amount of sweat glands in comparison to other animals

    3) Very short body hair in comparison to other animals

    4) Biggest butts of all primates; our butts do not play much of a role in walking, however, when running, they play the role that is normally played by a tail in most animals

    5) Achilles tendon (acts as a spring)

    It wouldn’t make any sense to have evolved all of these endurance running-specific traits without being a distance runner. None of these are needed for just walking around. They are all specific to distance running. In terms of why we would have evolved such traits.

    YES, you can run out of energy while chasing an animal or suffer lack of salt due to sweating out too much. Such was life in prehistoric times. It was hard. The reason the human body begins atrophying so much after 45 years of age is because 30 to 45 at the most was the average lifespan of a human back then. Nature didn’t design us to make it beyond then. We see the same effect take place with house pets, such as well taken-care-of pet dogs and cats that live far longer than wilderness dogs and cats, but end up disabled to the point that they would die quickly if sent into the wild, simply due to their bodies. They only get to that age due to humans caring for them, not having to survive. Our pet cat lived to 19 for example. But by the end, he couldn’t jump anymore. We had to put special stairs at the sofa, chairs, and beds for him to climb up. If he had been a wilderness cat, he’d have died far sooner.

    By your logic, you might as well be saying that women were not evolved to have babies because giving birth is so painful for them and entails so much risk, where lots of mothers die in childbirth without modern medicine and lots of babies that do survive the birth end up dying anyway. All evolution did was adapt women enough that enough babies could be born to continue to species. Similarly, humans were adapted enough to run distance to catch animals. But no, it wasn’t easy or risk-free, no more than childbirth is.

    Nor were early humans scavengers. We are specifically evolved also to throw projectiles. We are the only human capable of doing an overhand throw. There is again no reason for this except to be able to throw pointy sticks, i.e. spears, which turned us into an apex predator capable of killing all land animals.

  100. Another thing I wanted to add is in response to some saying that humans naturally don’t like to run distance, as if to imply that humans are thus not evolved to run distance. That argument falls apart when one looks at the fact that humans on average also are not very interested in intellectual things either, yet our brains are clearly evolved for critical thinking and creativity at levels far exceeding any other creature. Yet, the average person allows much of their brain power potential still waste away. Having such a brain doesn’t mean the average person has any interest in studying things in-depth like history, public policy, political philosophy, mathematics, science, engineering, etc…just the same, that so many people have no desire to distance run doesn’t mean we aren’t evolved to do it.

  101. Endurance running is evolutionarily recent, google
    “original econiche Homo” or
    “unporven assumptions so-called aquatic ape theory”

  102. Mark, this is an odd argument you’re attempting to make (poorly). The type of running we were “born” to do, according to Lieberman, and mentioned in Born to Run, is exactly the type you’re claiming we would have done as hunters. The premise was never that we were running 6 minute miles for days on end to chase prey. The theory is that we walked, jogged slowly at very low intensity, etc. You’re sort of contradicting yourself here. Humans were most certainly evolved to chase prey over long distances, it seems that you’re confused about the speed at which they chased.